The discovery of an old sword stirs up some old memories.
Jessica raised a brow in surprise as he reached past Eight to retrieve a sword. The blade was broader than the weapons she was used to seeing Angelo use, and dull from its time locked away in one of Trodain's store rooms, but it didn't seem to have rusted or taken any other harm. And while her knowledge of swords was almost non-existent, the expression on Angelo's face told her what a fine weapon it was.
"You don't mind, do you?" he asked belatedly.
Eight grinned. "You owe me the next weapon we find."
He reached into the chest for the scabbard, and Jessica saw the symbol of the Goddess, inlaid in gold on the blue enameled hilt.
She didn't ask him about it until that night, when Eight had given up on finding their way through the castle and led them all the way back outside of the gates. Jessica wasn't sure it was really any safer out there, but it was less oppressive than the castle, and, she imagined, easier for Eight to bear than the ruins of his home. Even so, their camp was more subdued than usual.
Angelo had settled near the fire and spent the entire evening lovingly cleaning his new sword, until the blade shone brilliant silver and the gilded decorations reflected sparks of light.
"I haven't seen you this enamored since you met that bunny girl back in Ascantha," Jessica said, settling on the ground beside him.
"It's an exceptional weapon," he said, and she thought she detected just a trace of embarrassment in his expression.
"I'll take your word for it." She studied him a moment. "You treat it almost like an old friend."
"It's a Templar's sword. The old style, from the days when we still acted as mounted cavalry. My...Marcello used to have one like it." Some of the animation left his features at the mention of his brother, and he abruptly wiped the blade one final time and reached for the scabbard.
"And I'm sure he never let you near it, right?" Jessica prompted, unsure if she wanted to lighten the mood or simply give him the chance to talk.
"Of course not." He smiled faintly. "Not that that stopped me."
"I assume he never found you out?"
"Eventually, Marcello finds everything out. And I was not terribly clever when I was twelve, so he found things out all the sooner." The smile was gone. "Of course, if I'd been clever I would have figured that out before he caught me."
"What did he do?" She dreaded the answer, regretted starting the conversation, imagining all manner of horrible things Marcello might have deemed proper punishment.
"He took it from me. Then he took me to the smithy, and made me watch while it was destroyed." Angelo stared at the fire, jaw set, one gloved hand wrapped tightly around the hilt of the sword, the other curled into a fist. "There may have been some commentary on my worthiness to...exist...but I don't really recall."
The lie wasn't up to Angelo's usual standards; Jessica suspected he could repeat every hateful word Marcello had ever said to him. "That was unpardonably cruel."
"Apparently, we are both very much our father's sons. Marcello got the cruel streak, and I got the rest of the negative traits." He sighed. "Most of which you've observed first-hand, so I needn't list them."
"For what it's worth, I'd far rather have you than Marcello. And you're much more worthy of that sword."
"Thank you." Her hand had somehow come to rest atop his, and now he lifted it, brushed his lips lightly against her fingers. "That means a great deal."
She should have pulled her hand away - there was, after all, no need to encourage him to test the boundaries between them - but instead she said, "And you do have some good qualities to balance the bad."
"I'll take your word for it." He smiled, the first genuine smile she'd seen since Trodain came into view. "Though there is one thing you're wrong about."
His eyes flicked toward the sword, then back to hers. "You haven't seen me this enamored of anything since I met /you/."